THE HISTORY OF RAMSEY PARK IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
The area that is now Ramsey Park has a long and colorful history. It dates from the time in history when this land was inhabited by roving Indian tribes through the conquest by Spain, ownership by Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and finally as a part of the United States and the State of Texas.
Our story starts when this piece of land was in a tract bought by George W. Spear, a returning soldier, from the Republic of Texas in 1841 with his soldier’s bonus script. Spear died soon after the purchase and the land went to his heirs.
In 1866, John Hancock acquired this tract of land and used it as a dairy farm until it was sold to Mr. C. A. Peterson. As of the 1950’s some of Mr. Peterson’s sons still lived in the neighborhood.
Frank Taylor Ramsey purchased this parcel of land in 1900 to use as part of a huge nursery, at one time the largest in the state of Texas. Frank was the son of Alexander Murray Ramsey who had moved from western Pennsylvania in 1852 to Jackson, Mississippi and later in 1860 to Burnet County, Texas. A.M. Ramsey was a pioneer nurseryman and from him Frank Ramsey got his interest in this field.
A.M. Ramsey started a nursery in 1875 and it was successfully operated by four generations of Ramseys. Following Alexander and Frank came John Murray and Murray Perkins.
F. T. (whose nickname was Fruit Tree) Ramsey did landscaping at the State Capitol and shipped plants and seeds all over the world. He was known for collecting plants and trees in the wild and cultivating them for domestic use. It was said that had he kept notes on his work, he could have been another Luther Burbank.
M.P. Ramsey, who died in 1975, did landscaping for Lyndon Baines Johnson’s ranch.
What is now Ramsey Park was the part of the Ramsey’s Austin Nursery known as the Peterson Field. This field was planted with nursery stock and at one time contained over a million plants and trees.
In 1927, Mrs. Annabelle Sinclair Ramsey, F. T.’s wife for whom Sinclair Avenue is named, died and this land was given to their four children, John Murray Ramsey, Jessie Ramsey Murray, Euphie Ramsey Taylor (whose granddaughter is actress Leigh Taylor-Young), and Winnie Ramsey Nitschke. J.M.’s interest was soon acquired by his three sisters.
In 1929, a part of the land south of the present park was divided into lots and named Rosedale “A”, due to the fact that on the land there were thousands of Rosedale Arborvitae, a hedge plant like ligustrum.
In 1931, another section was cut into lots and called Rosedale “B”. Lot numbers 5 and 6 of Rosedale “B” is the area now Ramsey Park. These lots contained a large stock of chinaberry trees, ash trees, etc. Many chinaberry trees were left of the playground, but others were transplanted to other parks throughout the City. Many of these chinaberry trees continue to grow in their original location.
F.T. Ramsey died December 28, 1932 after a long life of service to his community and country. He served the city in many capacities and gave freely of his time and talents.
In 1933, Mr. Ramsey’s daughters gave one of the two lots comprising Ramsey Park to the City. The City then purchased the adjacent lot for the purpose of having an area large enough for a public park and playground.
The City dedicated Ramsey Park in 1934. It was used informally as a play area until the City Recreation Department placed paid leadership there in the summer of 1939. The construction of a swimming pool started in 1941 and was ready for operation in the summer of 1942. The softball fields were lighted in 1948. The concrete tennis courts were added in 1949 and were lighted the following year. In the winter of 1950 new game equipment for children was added in the form of a slide, a jungle gym, and a merry-go-round. Plans for a shelter house and transplanting of shrubbery were drawn up in 1941 and completed in 1951.
PICTURE OF MERCY PERKINS RAMSEY, WINNIE RAMSEY NITSCHKE AND JESSIE RAMSEY MURRAY AT THE PARK. Mercy P. Ramsey was F.T. Ramsey’s daughter-in-law, J.M. Ramsey’s wife. Winnie Nitschke and Jessie Murray were two of F.T.’s three daughters. A note on the back of the picture says 1934, when the park was originally dedicated, but from the clothes and age of the ladies, it’s more likely from 1951 when the shelter house was completed. Had the picture been taken in 1934, J.M. should have been there, but since he died in 1944, the later date is more likely.
Ramsey Park was not named in honor of Frank Taylor Ramsey because part of the land was given by his children, but as an expression of appreciation for his service to this City and State. This is shown in an excerpt from a resolution adopted by the Austin City Council January 11, 1934:
“WHEREAS, F. T. Ramsey, now deceased, during his lifetime served with distinction as a member of the Austin School Board and in other public capacities, and gave without charge his information and advice in the planning of the public landscaping of numerous areas in the city, and gave to the City large quantities of trees and plants for public planting, and through such generosity, both of service and gifts, the City has received great benefits; therefore, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: THAT said area of land hereinabove set apart and dedicated as a public park be denominated and known hereafter as Ramsey Park.”
PICTURE OF RESOLUTION
This article was based on a report compiled and published by the City Recreation Department in August 1951. It was updated by F. T. Ramsey’s great granddaughter, Charlotte Carl-Mitchell. Other descendants still living in the Austin area as of this date are: John Murray Ramsey’s daughter Mercy Ramsey Carl; Jessie Ramsey Murray’s children, Annabel Murray Thomas, Margaret Murray Bailey, Dr. Vincent Murray, Jr., Frances Murray Leggett and and their children and grandchildren: Margaret Ann Thomas Engelbrecht, Frances Claire Thomas Stephanian, Joel Engelbrecht, Janell Engelbrecht, and Steven Stephanian; Ralph Bailey, Rachel Bailey and John Bailey; Dr. John Sinclair Murray, David Murray, Ellen Murray, and Carol Murray; Nancy Leggett Clark, Carl Clark, Garrett Clark and Jim Clark; and Winnie Ramsey Nitschke’s daughter, Alice Ann Nitschke Wilder and her children and grandchildren, Diane Wilder Davenport Howard, Casey Davenport, David Davenport and William Davenport.
From http://www.charlottes-web.com/Ramsey_Park_History.html. Copied here in case that site goes away so that this information is not lost.